Staff: Mary Levine

Staff Excellence Award


The College of Science is pleased to announce that Mary Levine has received an inaugural College of Science Staff Excellence Award in 2019. The Staff Excellence Awards were created this year to recognize the impactful contributions from staff in the College and will be an ongoing award in the future.

Mary Levine joined the University of Utah 35 years ago, more than 20 years of this service being in the Department of Mathematics.  She is Assistant to the Chair of Mathematics, and provides administrative support to the faculty.

The College of Science has many truly wonderful staff who work tirelessly to assist students and faculty. Our sincerest thanks to this group for taking the initiative each day to make the College excellent in so many different ways!


Distinguished Research

“Since Professor Molinero joined the Department of Chemistry as Assistant Professor in 2006, she has developed a thriving research program in physical and materials chemistry, with foci on elucidating the phase behavior of water and its impact on atmospheric processes, and the design of new materials for energy and cryopreservation. Professor Molinero’s ground breaking research at the University of Utah has already resulted in over 290 presentations at conferences, universities, and research institutions all over the world (110 of them by students and postdocs of Molinero), and 95 journal articles—including three in Nature—that have gathered almost five thousand citations,” said one nominator.

“Professor Molinero’s work is a hallmark of what research and scholarship at our University should be about. In her 12 years of independent research, she has made an indelible mark in several fundamental areas of physical and computational chemistry, with implications that extend to atmospheric sciences and the design of materials for energy and catalysis. Professor Molinero is a leader in the Chemistry and Physics communities. She is the Vice-chair and Chair-elect of the Theory subdivision of the American Chemical Society, member of the nominating committee of the Division of Chemical Physics of the American Physical Society, member of the Board of Managers of the American Institute of Physics Publishing, the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Chemical Physics and of The Journal of Physical Chemistry, has been on the selection committee of major awards by the American Chemical Society…”

Distinguished Teaching

Each year, the University of Utah recognizes the achievements of members of its faculty with Distinguished Teaching Awards. This year’s honorees include Gernot Laicher, Professor/Lecturer in the Department of Physics & Astronomy.

Honorees are nominated by students. Here is what students said about Laicher:

"[Laicher] is one of the most effective lecturers I have had the pleasure of taking a course from. His ability to not only understand the questions that we had in each activity but to anticipate difficulties we may encounter based on his experience and to expertly explain how to circumvent them was amazing. Prof. Laicher also shines in his mentoring of students outside of the classroom proper," said one nominator. "He is very clearly concerned with all of his students and is readily available to answer questions and provide guidance outside of the classroom. Importantly, he has served as a fantastic mentor to me and other teaching assistants, giving us excellent guidance in running our labs. He has been a model template for the development of my own teaching style. Simply put, Prof. Laicher is one of the best instructors I have had in my graduate career, one whose instruction has had the most direct effect upon both my work and my teaching ethic. I cannot think of anyone more deserving to be recognized for this work than him."

Laicher has been teaching continuously for 20 years at the U, with his primary teaching responsibilities being in connection with undergraduate and graduate laboratory courses, several of which he designed himself.

"Because of his past research involvement, he has a keen sense of what is required for students to learn in these lab courses in order to successfully make the transition to productive research,” said other nominators.

Laicher received a master's degree in physics from the State University of New York at Buffalo and obtained a Ph.D. in physics from the U.

2019 Research Scholar

The College of Science Research Scholar Award is given annually to one graduating student who demonstrates a record of exceptional success in research and education. From the Class of 2019, we have selected Cameron Own, a highly-accomplished student who is graduating with a bachelor’s degrees in Chemistry, Physics, and a minor in Mathematics this year.

In addition to his studies, Cameron has been heavily involved in research during his time at the U, working in the Armentrout Research Group since he was a freshman. His involvement in the Armentrout Group has led to multiple publications, on three of which Cameron has been the lead author. Furthermore, Cameron’s research has also aided in his success in national scholarship competitions. As a junior, he was awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, and as a senior, he was awarded a Winston Churchill Scholarship. This latter award will allow Cameron to ascertain a MPhil at the University of Cambridge next year, after which he will attend Harvard University to obtain a Ph.D.

Cameron has enjoyed his time at the U, and credits his success to the supportive environment provided in the Chemistry Department at the U and in the Armentrout Research Group. Cameron has also received multiple awards from the Chemistry Department, including the Ronald Ragsdale Scholarship and the Ferdinand Peterson Scholarship during his sophomore year. Ultimately, Cameron thinks he wants to go into industry or a start-up following the completion of his degrees, but is open to the idea of becoming a professor. Lastly, Cameron would like to the thank the College of Science for considering him for this award and for creating an environment at the U that focuses on research and scientific curiosity.

2019 Hatch Prize

43 Years of Teaching Excellence: Harris Awarded Hatch Prize

Joel Harris was awarded this year's Hatch Prize for his outstanding teaching contributions to the University of Utah. Harris came to the University of Utah in 1976, and has continued to receive awards for both his significant research and impactful teaching. Over his 43-years at the University, Harris has taught thousands of students, and his legacy continues to draw ambitious and passionate students to the Department of Chemistry. His students appreciate and remember him for his dedication, care, and enthusiasm as he consistently goes well beyond all expectations. The students rise to their full potential as he provides challenging problems along with the knowledge and tools to make sure they succeed.

“Joel is an absolutely first-rate analytical chemist who loves to teach undergraduates, and he is immensely skillful at this art! In his more than 4 decades of teaching analytical chemistry at the University of Utah, he has distinguished himself as an engaging educator and scholar. He is a compassionate and challenging teacher who puts the interests of students and their education first. Prof. Harris has taught Quantitative Chemical Analysis, Chemistry 3000 (a requirement for all majors), and Advanced Analytical Chemistry Lab (Chemistry 5700) to thousands of students since he first created these courses 40 years ago.

To countless undergraduates and former TAs, Joel is well known as a lab rat,” said one nominator. “While you can occasionally find him in his office doing paperwork, he is most often in the research and teaching lab guiding students in the best ways to do an experiment. He is best known for a hands-on approach to undergraduate laboratory courses, in which students work on independent projects, asking scientific questions of their own choosing, exploring the literature to identify the best methods of analysis, and conducting experiments to solve real-world problems. Joel works one-on-one with the students in Chemistry 3000 to help them be innovative in their exploration of what’s in the world around us, leading to a capstone signature experience for our undergraduate students. This course is considered as one of the most challenging in our undergraduate curriculum, but recent comments from course evaluations indicate that it is one of the best experiences at the University, reflecting the dedication, enthusiasm and skill that Joel has brought to undergraduate education, both in the classroom and the lab.”

The Calvin S. and JeNeal N. Hatch Prize in Teaching is provided by an endowment given to the University of Utah by Mr. and Mrs. Hatch. The purpose of the prize is to recognize an outstanding teacher at the University of Utah and to make a contribution to teaching, the dissemination of knowledge, and to improve our ability to communicate with each other.

Joel M. Harris is Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of Utah, where he also holds an adjunct appointment in the Department of Bioengineering. Harris received a B.S. degree from Duke University and his Ph.D. from Purdue University. He joined the faculty of the University of Utah in 1976. Dr. Harris's research has focused on analytical chemistry and spectroscopic studies of low concentrations of molecules in liquids and at liquid/solid interfaces. Frequently honored as both a researcher and teacher, Dr. Harris is Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also Fellow and Honorary Member of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy. For 12 years, Harris served as Editor-in-Chief of Applied Spectroscopy. He is the recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, the Coblentz Award in Molecular Spectroscopy, the University of Utah Distinguished Research Award, the ACS Division of Analytical Chemistry Award in Chemical Instrumentation, the SAS New York Section Gold Medal Award in Spectroscopy, the Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award, the University of Utah Robert W. Parry Teaching Award, the ACS Utah Award in Chemistry, the Distinguished Service Award of Society for Applied Spectroscopy, the Benedetti-Pichler Award in Microchemistry, the Bomem-Michelson Award of the Coblentz Society, and the ACS Award in Analytical Chemistry.